Scottish courts and the law
Scottish courts and the law

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Scottish courts and the law

3.1 Plans for change

Plans for change continue. Listen to the following audio discussion in which lawyers discuss change, justice and the future of the legal system in Scotland.

This quotation from the Canadian Superior Judges association provides a helpful summary of the role of laws in society.

Laws reflect the values of our society. They impose limits on the conduct of individuals in order to promote the greater good and to make our communities safe places to live. It is against the law to steal, to injure another person, to drive recklessly or to pollute the environment, to name just a few of the countless ways the law is designed to protect us. We are said to be ruled by law, not by those who enforce the law or wield government power. No one is above the law. Everyone, no matter how wealthy or how powerful they are, must obey the law or face the consequences.

(Canadian Superior Courts Judges Association, n.d)

Before you attempt Activity 2 you should now listen to Elish Angiolini as she reflects on the traditions and future of law.

Download this video clip.Video player: The traditions and future of law
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Transcript: The traditions and future of law

Elish Angiolini:
The digital future challenges people of my generation. Computers came into my life in my basically early 30s, and before that I had no knowledge of working, and therefore I've had to acquire that. But I think for the current generation of lawyers who are coming through, they are much more comfortable with the reality of digital courts.
And this is happening already where you have evidence being transmitted using technology. We don't have huge piles of papers around in the courtroom any longer. Most of them have been scanned or automated, and information is transmitted. And witnesses can give evidence remotely from other parts of the world into the courtrooms. And we have virtual courtrooms where all of the participants may be in different parts of the country coming together in a conference scenario.
The use of digital information in future I think can only get greater. Already, most of our law books have become redundant because most of our books have been transcribed onto digital format. And indeed the case law is there too. So artificial intelligence I think is the next step. It's whether or not we lawyers will be made redundant, because there will be such sophisticated artificial intelligence that will be able to give remedies and solutions because of their enormous power to retrieve information.
I think that the idea that, however, you will have courts devoid of judges and lawyers is unlikely because of the human element of empathy and understanding of the emotional side of the law, which is not just about a problem, it's someone who usually is quite traumatised and upset with a problem, which means that despite the advance of artificial intelligence and the digital age, there might still be a role for human beings.
The rituals and the traditions which surround the operation of the law vary from one country to another. And in Scotland, like in England, in the higher courts, gowns and wigs may be worn and there may be processions. Much of that is just at a celebration of the beginning of the year. And they're pretty harmless, except if the impact of them is to alienate people and make people think that that's what it's like in the courtroom.
And in some courts we still wear wigs and gowns. And in many others, you'll find now that no uniform is worn at all. Indeed, if you go to our highest court in the country, the Supreme Court, the judges do not wear gowns. They wear suits. And it doesn't diminish the respect and solemnity of that court remotely.
I am not a fan of the uniform or of the wig. I think those were aspects of dress from many centuries ago and that they have less relevance. I have also been in courtrooms in America where there is no dress code such other than smart dress, and again the judges command precisely the same degree of respect as those of ours who are dressed up in red gowns or wigs and all of council dressed in black gowns and wigs.
Arguments are made that these traditions provide anonymity to the participants, but I'm not convinced about that argument. Most people recognise you with the wig on or off. And I think it can create something of a cultural barrier in a sense because people who come from other countries come into a courtroom, it's a very, very frightening experience. It can be really one which can be very disconcerting. And I think that anything that's a barrier to that, including court dress, is something which I think we have to consider and review as to just how relevant that is to 21st century justice.
End transcript: The traditions and future of law
The traditions and future of law
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Activity 2 Reflection

Timing: Allow about 10 minutes

In Activity 1 of Week 1 you were asked to take a few moments to think about what you have heard or seen about courts and court proceedings and to make a note your thoughts in response to a series of questions. Look back at your answer to that activity and reflect on whether you would now change those answers. What have you learnt as you progressed through this course?

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There is no right answer to this question. Its purpose is to encourage you to reflect on the knowledge you have gained from this course. The role of courts, judges and individuals within our legal system is a crucial one. Processes and procedures change but the need for some form of adjudication provided by the state remains. The saying ‘Justice needs to be done and be seen to be done’ remains as important now as it was in previous centuries. The legal system in Scotland (the justice system) plays a role in shaping society, responding to society’s needs and helps create an inclusive fair and just society.


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